Women as "Practitioners" and "Targets."


Dyvik, Synne Laastad. 2014. “Women as ‘Practitioners’ and ‘Targets.’” International Feminist Journal of Politics 16 (3): 410–29. doi:10.1080/14616742.2013.779139.

Author: Synne Laastad Dyvik


Feminist scholarship has shown how gender is integral to understanding war, and that the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was partly legitimated through a reference to Afghan women's ‘liberation’. Recognizing this, the article analyses how gender is crucial also to understanding the practice of ‘population-centric’ counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. Because this type of warfare aims at ‘winning hearts and minds’, it is in engaging the population that a notable gendered addition to the US military strategy surfaces, Female Engagement Teams (FETs). Citing ‘cultural sensitivity’ as a key justification, the US deploys all-female teams to engage with and access a previously untapped source of intelligence and information, namely Afghan women. Beyond this being seen as necessary to complete the task of population-centric counterinsurgency, it is also hailed as a progressive step that contributes to Afghan women's broader empowerment. Subjecting population-centric counterinsurgency to feminist analysis, this article finds that in constructing women both as ‘practitioners’ and ‘targets’, this type of warfare constitutes another chapter in the various ways that their bodies have been relied upon for its ‘success’.

Keywords: Afghanistan, counterinsurgency, cultural turn, empowerment, female engagement teams, feminism, military masculinities

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Masculinity/ies, Livelihoods, Militarized Livelihoods, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Terrorism Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East Countries: Afghanistan

Year: 2014

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